North OC Street Changes Irk Residents

OCEAN CITY — Ron Deacon
says the property owners on his street never asked to be part of a trial
program that would install parking meters on 146th Street. He also
says that the city never told them either.

A budget time decision
by the Mayor and Council that would potentially increase revenues by an
estimated $30,000 annually by installing cale pay machines on 146th
Street has enraged some local residents and property owners to the point they are
allegedly attempting to take legal action in order to stop the “trial program”
from taking place.

“The owners are
obviously very upset because we didn’t know anything was going to be happening
on our street until we saw the bulldozers pull up,” said Deacon. “They are also
extending the asphalt on our street an additional 30 feet, which we didn’t ask
for either. We rarely have any problems with parking on our street and we
didn’t call out for any changes, so why do we have to be the street that has
the trial program for paid parking?”

Deacon is the president
of the Condominium Association at the Ocean Place, a 100-unit condominium
building on 146th Street built in the early 1980’s and is one of the
most unique streets in town as it is essentially on the border between Maryland
and Delaware.

Deacon says he’s been in
correspondence with town officials, including City Manager Dennis Dare and
Public Works Director Hal Adkins to express his disdain, but he claims he’s
received little sympathy and certainly no indication that the trial program
will cease.

“My email from Mr. Dare
said that the town was experiencing money problems in the name of less property
tax revenue due to lower assessments and that this trial program would help
ease the gap, and he also said that people from Delaware were coming down to
our street and parking for free, which I essentially had to pay for the
streets, beaches, and all of that, while they don’t,” said Deacon, “but, I’m
tired of hearing about the town’s money problems, and I’m trying to find a
lawyer to get a work stop on this program.”

Dare said this week that
Ocean Place has ample parking and was surprised that the program had gotten
property owners up in arms.

“I really don’t see how
it’s going to be a huge burden for them as they have a newer building that
meets the code and has sufficient parking up there,” said Dare. “Anywhere you
go in Delaware, you can’t park without paying or without having a permit, so
obviously, in the uptown area of Ocean City we get a lot of people coming in
from Delaware who park for free on our streets, and we welcome them. But, we
spend upwards of $3 million a year in keeping the beach clean, replenished, and
paying for the best beach patrol around as well as additional money to maintain
the streets and everything else, and the property owners pay for that, not the
people who are parking for free on their street.”

In addition, Deacon took
umbrage with the town’s plan to extend the street by 30 feet and to widen it,
which officials say will increase the access for emergency vehicles and improve
the street as a whole, in addition to changeover from parallel parking spaces
to all perpendicular.

“I must register my
great concern with the changes being made to the street,” said Ocean Place

condo owner Eric Crist in an email to town officials.  “I understand that revenue must be found where it must and that

paying for parking is a reasonable method. However, extending the street
further into the beach is taking the measure too far. Expanding the street into
the already scarce beach reduces the attraction of our location.”

Mayor Rick Meehan says
that a compromise could be reached to meet the obvious concerns of the property
owners, noting that the project could be done in phases.

“Maybe if we were to put
the Cale machines in now, and hold off on extending the street for a little
while, that might be the right thing to do,” said Meehan. “Anytime you make a
change, there are going to be some unhappy people, but the residents up there
should know that the council thought about this decision before they made it
and realized that there was sufficient parking for the property owners. So,
they in no way were guinea pigs for this trial program.”

Debates over whether the
town should look to consider paid parking in uptown Ocean City has been a
sporadic, yet highly contested subject, and Dare notes that if placing parking
meters on 146th Street is successful and brings in the expected
$30,000 annually that he believes it will, he doesn’t rule out additional
parking meters in uptown areas.

“It could open the door
for other streets to be included in this, but it’s all a trial program based on
whether or not anyone pays to park on the street. If no one does it, obviously
we won’t keep adding meters where people aren’t parking,” Dare said.

Deacon and the property
owners at Ocean Place seem to be most angered by the lack of communication with
the town, although it should be noted that the town does technically own the
street and has the right to extend, expand or renovate.

Deacon says he wishes
there would have been some correspondence and doesn’t plan on just letting the
issue fade away.

“The city has decided
not to be transparent with us and I’m not going to drop this,” said Deacon.
“Generating revenue is not everyone’s concern. We certainly generate enough of
it for Ocean City but even then, we are not considered.”